Migrants: No longer welcome
Afghan migrants from Iran, Pakistan and the West are being forced to return home.
The Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations spokesperson Hafizullah Miakhil says 144,793 refugees returned in the first two months of 1396 (Afghan calendar year, March 21 to April 21, 2017) from just two countries – Pakistan and Iran.
This would be between 3,000 and 3,500 refugees returning daily from Iran and Pakistan, while roughly 950 arrive every day from Australia, countries in Europe and North America. Among them are Afghans who sought refugee status but had their applications rejected and were deported.
Mohammad Karim Shafiaee has returned from Germany. He worries about the security situation in Afghanistan. "If our life was not in danger would we have become refugees?" he asks.
Hasan Haidari who is in Austria and waiting for his application for refugee status to be processed told Killid over the phone, "We got here (to Europe) with great difficulty; we are happy here as we are secure but still our future is not clear. We all know that Afghanistan is not safe for unarmed civilians like me and so European countries should not expel Afghan refugees."
Officials in the Ministry of Refugees and Returnees also confirm tens of thousands of Afghans have migrated to European countries and applied for shelter. Some applications have been rejected and applicants have to choose between returning voluntarily and expulsion.
Meanwhile, Afghans in Pakistan and Iran have been deported by the respective governments in retaliation for acts of terror in the former country and for not having the necessary documents of residence in the latter. Afghans including women and children have been turned back from the border by the Iranian government.
Refugees and experts studying migration think the government is indifferent to the plight of Afghans, mainly young, who have taken all kinds of risks to get to Europe in the hope of a better life. With the issue of foreigners becoming a political issue in many countries, including in western Europe, the heat is on new arrivals. Experts feel the Afghan government is painting an incorrect picture of the security situation in the country in order to earn more international aid.
Jawed Dostan who has migrated to Germany believes that forced expulsion of Afghan refugees started after President Ashraf Ghani's visit to Germany in 2015. According to him, President Ghani categorically said "we need our youths inside our country and they should return. I don't want our youth to become dish washers."
He says that thereafter the doors shut for Afghan refugees in Germany. Some of the refugees found they had to leave Germany, which the Afghan government describes as voluntary return. On Oct 4 last year the government announced it would create the "right" conditions for the return of refugees.
Afghan returnees from Germany feel they were discriminated against. Migrants from other countries like Syria, Iraq, Iran and Eritrea enjoy more rights.
Zaher Ahmadi, an Afghan resident of Switzerland, describes the situation of Afghan refugees in western Europe as very uncertain. They are not welcome in countries like Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Norway and Sweden. There is no attempt to understand the reasons why they fled Afghanistan during the interview and the applications are rejected, he feels.
In the interim, Ahmadi says, the migrant survives on a small allowance which ensures he will not starve to death but is far from adequate for even basic needs like clothes or travel. Worse is the uncertainty over whether their applications will be accepted or rejected. And while they wait, the migrants can neither work nor study.
If their application is rejected, the migrant gets three chances to appeal against the order. If he loses the final appeal, the migrant is taken into custody and detained in camps for deportation. Ahmadi blames the Afghan government for the rejection of applications for asylum. The government has shown some provinces like Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Ghazni, Bamyan and Daikundi as secure and anyone who says he is from these provinces is not granted refugee status.
"We are discriminated against here in Europe and the reason is nothing but the unjust policies of the Afghan government and its agreements with countries here regarding refugees," says Ahmadi.
Authorities in the refugees and repatriations ministry say in defence that they have stopped the expulsion of all Afghan migrants through negotiations with individual European countries. Hafizullah Miakhil, press spokesperson in the ministry says, "After talks with European countries including Germany and Finland a joint declaration was signed and the mass expulsion of Afghans was prevented."
This year only undocumented migrants are being deported unlike earlier when anyone could be picked up. Returnees are each given 200 USD and aid from the International Organisation of Migration, World Food Programme and other international organisations.
Miakhil says the ministry has proposed a new fund of 50 million USD for returnees, which is waiting for approval from the president.